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Nepotism Is A Danger
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Police Departments When a father supervises a son, trouble awaits

 

Courant - Editorial
April 16, 2011

Recent incidents involving fathers and sons working on the same police department point to a pressing need for local hiring policies that would ban nepotism on forces throughout Connecticut.

Late last year, Windsor Locks police Sgt. Robert Koistinen was charged with obstruction of justice for blocking attempts to have a blood-alcohol test done on his son Michael, an off-duty Windsor Locks officer, to see if he had been drinking before hitting and killing 15-year-old bicyclist Henry Dang in a car crash.

Robert Koistinen is on administrative leave. Michael Koistinen was charged with manslaughter and fired.

Five departments had rejected Michael Koistinen before he was eventually hired by the force in Windsor Locks, where his father was a high-ranking officer.

In Meriden last week, two officers alleged that police Chief Jeffrey Cossette and other officers have shown favoritism toward the chief's son, Officer Evan Cossette, in a number of excessive-force complaints lodged against the younger Cossette in less than a year's time.

In one case, the head of the department's internal affairs division, Sgt. Leonard Caponigro, conducted a six-minute interview with Officer Cossette in an investigation into a brutality complaint, then told the officer that he was "just going through the motions" and would have the investigation wrapped up quickly. The two chuckled about the size of the man who filed the complaint, department records show.

Would an officer who is not the chief's son be treated with such deference in an investigation into alleged brutality?

These incidents strongly suggest unacceptable favoritism shown sons by their higher-ranking fathers and other superior officers on the force. This frustrates the cause of justice and undermines department moral.

The potential for favoritism is great in Connecticut because of the tradition of family members working in the same department. Nearly one-quarter of the 94 municipal police departments with 10 or more state-certified officers employs fathers and their sons or daughters, a review by The Courant shows.

But few communities have policies that prohibit officers from directly supervising relatives. They should. And if the officer-parent is the chief, the child should be encouraged to work in another department.

 

 


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